10 yakuza members arrested for stealing sea cucumbers from ocean

soranews24.com -- Mar 02
More wayward souls caught up in the glitz and glamour of the illegal sea cucumber trade.

A few years ago we reported on the growing problem of yakuza crews catching large amounts of sea cucumbers without a license. As odd as it may seem, sea cucumbers fetch a high price in some countries such as China where they’re used in cuisine and sometimes as a folk remedy.

Sea cucumbers also aren’t as strictly regulated by Japan as other seafoods, making them easier to ship abroad in large quantities without drawing attention. According to some reports, the sea cucumber black market can be as lucrative as drugs for organized crime groups in Japan.

In response, the government said they would tighten the rules surrounding sea cucumber exports, but it looks as if little has improved with the arrest of 10 scuba-diving gangsters as recently as 1 March.

The incident occurred on 25 August of last year. A Hokkaido Prefectural Police patrol car spotted a car parked on the shore in the town of Omu, and questioned the driver. At that same time a rubber boat loaded with oxygen tanks, radios, and other equipment came ashore.

There were no sea cucumbers on the tiny craft, but that’s in keeping with past incidents. In some cases the poached echinoderms are loaded onto a high-performance speed boat capable of outrunning the coast guard, and whisked away. When the literal coast is clear, they are then loaded on to trucks and prepared for export.

So, knowing that something was clearly going on, the police investigated the incident further and connected 10 members of the Asahikawa branch of the Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza family, including one 57-year-old boss.

- soranews24.com